A $2 trillion relief package — the largest in U.S. history — has been passed in an attempt to stabilize the economy, in the wake of an economic and medical crisis posed by coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19).
The package includes help for individuals, unemployment benefits, loans for small businesses, help for large industries and other types of assistance.
The stimulus includes a $1,200 check per person, or $2,400 married jointly, with an additional $500 per child, for those earning $75,000 or less, according to reporting by national news outlets.
There’s also $350 billion of loans for small businesses.
The package also includes increased unemployment payments, and unemployment benefits extended to self-employed workers and contractors, the reports say.
U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis issued a statement after the passage of the CARES Act.
In part, he noted the relief act will “help keep us safe, protect jobs and prevent financial devastation for millions of Americans.
“We must get people working again, as soon as it is safe to do so,” he said, adding the stimulus checks will provide immediate relief to individual taxpayers who need it most.
He also noted “the expanded unemployment benefits will provide support for those who have lost their jobs or seen their hours reduced through no fault of their own.”
And, “the bill provides loan programs to help every type and size of business, including: sole proprietors, independent contractors, and nonprofits. If small business owners continue to pay their rent and employees, they can have their loans forgiven.”
Also, on March 29, President Donald Trump called for extended national guidance on social distancing guidelines be extended through April 30. In part, the guidelines call for individuals to stay at least 6 feet apart from others and that gatherings be limited to 10 or fewer people.
Locally, Hillsborough County has adopted a Safer-At-Home Order, to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
The order applies to all residents within Hillsborough County, including the cities of Plant City, Tampa and Temple Terrace, and became effective at 10 p.m., on March 27.
The order means that all residents are directed to stay at home as much as possible, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
However, there are many exceptions to the Safer-at-Home Order, according to Hillsborough County’s website. Those include:
- People seeking medical treatment, transporting people seeking medical treatment, or caregivers assisting another person with medical or caregiving needs
- People whose residences are unsafe or have become unsafe, such as for victims of domestic violence
- People who are preparing or delivering food and drinks
- People commuting to and from their jobs
- People walking pets, as long as social distancing guidelines are observed
- Parent or guardians transporting children because of a custody-sharing agreement or order
The order also defines essential businesses/services, including:
- Establishments including grocery stores, farmers’ markets, farm and produce stands, supermarkets, food banks, convenience stores and liquor stores
- Gas stations, auto and recreational vehicle supply and repair shops, and auto dealerships
- Farming, livestock, and fishing
- Businesses that provide food, shelter, social services, and other necessities
- Hardware, gardening, and building material stores
- Firearms and ammunition supply stores
- Media services and journalists
In Pasco County, meanwhile, a virtual meeting of the region’s leaders was set for March 31, with invitations issued to the chairs of the Hillsborough and Pinellas county commissions and mayors of the region’s three largest cities.
The county also has posted a video on its website, featuring County Commission Chairman Mike Moore, County Administrator Dan Biles and Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco.
Moore reminded viewers that “a healthy community begins with you. Personal responsibility and accountability translate into real results.”
He encouraged viewers to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Department of Health’s guidance on social distancing.
“Don’t gather in groups of 10 or more, actually, if you don’t have to, don’t gather in groups at all.
“Wash your hands often and, please, if you’re sick, stay home,” Moore said.
Biles said the county is encouraging its employees to work from home, if they can.
“We’re making decisions based on real data, that applies to our community.
“Pasco doesn’t have the high density areas or multi-generational concerns that are driving stay-at-home orders in other communities.
“Our goal is to continue to safely provide essential services and to keep our economy moving,” Biles said.
Nocco reminded viewers that “we’re all in this together” and urged them to use common sense.
“Common sense is stay away from others, keep your social distance. Common sense is that you’re sick, stay inside.”
“We’re all in this together and together we will get through this crisis,” he said.
In terms of government services, Pasco County has closed these buildings until further notice: The Historic Pasco County Courthouse, 37918 Meridian Ave., Dade City; Guardian Ad Litem Office West and Guardian Ad Litem Office East; Elderly Nutrition East, 13853 15th St., Dade City; Elderly Nutrition Central, 6801 Wisteria Loop, Land O’ Lakes; and, Elderly Nutrition West, 8600 Galen Wilson Blvd., New Port Richey.
Pasco County also has closed its libraries and its parks recreation complexes, and community and education centers.
All Pasco County beaches are closed. Parks and natural preserve areas also were closed, effective 8 p.m., on March 30.
Parks-sponsored large events and mass gatherings are canceled until further notice, and these facilities in and near The Laker/Lutz News coverage area are closed: Land O’ Lakes Recreation Complex; Heritage Park Community Center; Starkey Wilderness Park Education Center; James Irvin Community Center; and, Odessa Community Center.
Pasco County Public Transit is providing free ridership until further notice, and limiting the number of riders on a bus to 10 to 15 riders at a time.
The county also will be increasing the number of buses on it busiest routes and temporarily suspending services on its least-used routes.
All Pasco County Senior Centers are closed, and all senior programs, activities, classes and meetings are canceled until further notice. For more information, call (727) 834-3340 with any questions.
Numerous public meetings have been canceled until further notice, including meetings of the Pasco County Commission and the Pasco County Planning Commission.
Pasco County Commissioner Ron Oakley was out of the country and returned home to do a 14-day self-quarantine.
He said the county is finding ways for people to work without being in groups, and he noted he’s been on conference calls with county staff.
“By doing what we are doing, this will probably all come to an end, sooner,” Oakley said.
“You take it one day at a time.
“You have to adapt. These are uncharted waters,” Oakley said.
Published April 1, 2020